Updated 12:04 pm ET.
Here are the key recommendations from the president's oil spill commission:
- Congress and the Administration should create an independent safety agency to oversee all aspects of offshore drilling safety (including both operational and occupational safety).
- U.S. offshore drilling regulations and enforcement practices should be the most advanced in the world. These new regulations should be, at a minimum, at least as stringent as those regulations in peer oil-producing nations (such as Norway and the United Kingdom).
- Broader consultations among federal agencies, including the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), prior to leasing and exploration will help identify and address risks.
- Industry should be required to demonstrate how their processes and procedures will better manage risk to achieve safer outcomes. After exploration has begun, industry should be required to constantly update its risk management plans to reflect actual experience..
- Drilling operators should be financially responsible for the consequences of failure. The current $75 million cap on liability for offshore facility accidents is totally inadequate and places the economic risk on the backs of the victims and the taxpayers. The cap should be raised significantly to place the burden of catastrophic failure on those who will gain the economic rewards, and to compensate innocent victims.
- The oil and gas industry must adopt a culture of safety.
- The oil and gas industry should establish a "Safety Institute."
- Spill response planning by both government and industry must improve.
- The government must develop in-house expertise to effectively oversee well-containment operations and to accurately estimate flow rates following a blowout. Industry must be required to develop well-containment technologies that are rapidly deployable and must demonstrate their effectiveness in deepwater.
- The penalties paid by BP and other parties responsible for the oil spill should be primarily devoted to Gulf restoration. The Gulf will continue to be under stress as energy development continues. Congress should dedicate 80 percent of any Clean Water Act civil and criminal penalties to long-term restoration of the Gulf of Mexico in partnership with the states.
*** UPDATE *** NBC's Kelly O'Donnell updates with this statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
"I commend the bipartisan panel for its work. Its findings and recommendations are largely in line with a Democratic plan to ensure that taxpayers are never again on the hook for the damages caused by BP or any other oil company's catastrophic missteps. Unfortunately that proposal was blocked last year by Senate Republicans.
"The White House, Congress and even the oil industry must work together to pass bipartisan legislation that will prevent and contain a similar environmental disaster and support continued efforts to restore the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast. We must make whole the fishermen, business owners and families whose lives and livelihoods have been altered.
"Congress must take action this year to prevent another catastrophic spill through smart regulation, and by giving regulators the tools and resources they need to do their jobs effectively. We need to ensure safe and responsible use of our very limited offshore oil reserves. But we must also quickly develop our homegrown clean energy resources, such as the solar, wind and geothermal power available in Nevada and around the country, in an environmentally sensible way. This will create jobs and lessen our dangerous reliance on oil."